Pulau Weh, Aceh
At anchor in front of Pulau Rubiah, Iboih
Right in front of the Island called Pulau Rubiah in Iboih we drop our anchor. Only the following day we find out that we are a bit close to the snorkeling spot for the local tourists, the little boats go back and forth the whole day from 9 to 5 and shake us around every time they pass.
Most of the snorkelers wear an orange swim safety jacket and long clothes. Here in Aceh a very conservative Muslim religion is practiced and the Sharia law is in place.
Because of a Chinese holiday the local dive centers are already fully booked. I still fight with the rest of the cold I got in the Mentawai’s, so we anyway skip diving for a few days. Then we decide to go with a dive center because the experience from Komodo is still to fresh. But the visibility is shockingly bad. We hardly see 3 meters. Also on the second day it is not any better. At least we do a complete service of our first and second stages together with Yann from the Netherlands, it is great, we learn a lot, only one of the membranes becomes a victim of his screwdriver and gets a hole, a spare part almost impossible to be sourced we have to find out later…
Then the weather forecast changes its mind, the wind that was supposed to come at the end of the week is now already two days earlier than forecasted so far. We are pretty disappointed, as we had wished to spend a bit more time here in this „normally“ paradise for divers…But it seams that the Monsoon change is a bit earlier this year than in other years, so we have to accept that. We clean up in a hurry and rush over to Sabang for the Check out.
Check out in Sabang, Pulau Weh
In Sabang we directly attach to a huge mooring ton made out of steel, we strap it right in between our hulls and hope it doesn’t touch.
Then we head over to the shore for the check out process. We are already pre warned that the officials here in Sabang are very strict and exact, but what we experience the next few hours we never would have imagined before!!
First instance is the coast guard who great us friendly at the dinghy dock and shove us into their office at the other side of the road.
They want to have all the papers right away, but the moment they see that we checked out in Sorong for Belitung and not for Sabang, the confusion is huge. “Why did you not go to Belitung?” is the question. “Well, we changed our minds because we heard Sabang is nicer” is our answer. Oh oh, this is not ok, the same question is repeated a few times, until finally they present the problem to their boss. He doesn’t mind as much as his staff and finally gives the ok so we can continue.
„Go to quarantine/health, then immigration, then customs, then come back” we are told.
We meet the 4 people from quarantine right in front of the harbour master/coast guard office, they take our papers and board our dinghy to come on board. We are pretty amazed that the boat is physically controlled at check out. We never had that before.
After a while we understand that there are mainly two reasons: one of the officers checks our medicine if there are any old items to “be disposed” and the boss of the group makes videos of himself questioning us. I have to calm down Reto, who cannot believe it…
After a 10 minutes walk we continue in the quarantine office, our papers are checked and I have to drive on the back of a scooter to the bank to pay 1.5 Dollars. Once back they find out that we have an “important” document missing that must have gone forgotten in the office in Sorong and I have to drive again to pay 1.85 Dollars this time. Well at least they offer the service of the scooter, otherwise I‘d have to walk each time half an hour back and forth…
Another 10 minutes walk brings us to the immigration office where we already feel a lot better. The officers are friendly and while one is dealing with our passports the other is chatting with us. We tell him about our positive experience in Bengkulu where the visa extension only has taken 3 hours. “3 days “he asks back incredulous, “no no, three hours -- tiga jam” (in Bahasa Indonesia) I repeat with a big grin, ”but I saw that they just did a workshop to improve processes…”.
Half an hour later we are already at the customs office and happy that they are open over lunch. One of the officers sees our camera and asks if we have a You Tube Channel.
They then watch our last videos and Reto even shows them how to watch the 360 degree with the mouse or looking around with the tablet, they really like it ;-).
Almost too enthusiastic we head back to the harbour master. They already have seen everything in the morning, so it should be fast now, we think.
But no, the officer tells us to go back to the Port Control right next to the Quarantine office, we are a bit upset heading back the same way as in the morning. At least we can pay the 5 dollars fee directly there instead of at the bank…
While Reto goes back to the harbour master I go back to the boat to get our diesel jerry cans ready. I also have to disappoint the diesel provisioning guy that we want to get it by ourselves. When Reto is ready at the harbour master we jump onto a tuctuc who drives us to the gas station for 2.80 Dollar back and forth.
The diesel looks good and we are happy, now we are ready to go.
Some time is left to buy some veggies and fruit and finally get something to eat, at 5 pm we are completely starved.
Then we check the newest weather forecast and the wind is constantly becoming less, we feel like crying…
From Sabang to Langkawi
Anyway, as we already checked out we decide to leave the next morning.
Our last Indonesian fishermen are more than happy about a cold drink:
Bye bye beautiful Indonesia! We had the most incredible time in this huge and diverse country and met so many lovely people everywhere, just amazing!!
But the hours sailing are pretty scarce indeed. Also there are numerous tankers going up and down the strait of Melaka, so they keep us busy on our watches. Of course the one or the other squall is coming along as well, but during the night of course only during Reto’s watch ;-)…
After 2.5 days we drop our anchor behind an island close to Langkawi -- a new country is waiting to be explored.
Easygoing Check-in in Kuah, Langkawi
The next morning we continue to Kuah and get mentally prepared for the check-in procedure.
A nice walk through the park brings us past the eagle to the ferry terminal. There everything goes super efficient. One paper for immigration, direct data input into the computer for port control and at customs all we do is to hand over the paper from Indonesia. We are sooo impressed…
We celebrate immediately with a lunch at the adjacent Kentucky Fried Chicken and make big eyes in passing the shopping mall -- chocolate and alcohol are both at European prices (Langkawi is duty free on a large number of goods, and at least on these much cheaper than in most countries we have been (except for the Philippines).
Exploring the Ship Chandlers and Boatyards
First thing though we start to work on our seemingly endless to do lists and try to replace the parts that have lost their function in the past months and couldn’t be repaired. But it is not supposed to be that easy. When we find a part it is either not exactly the right one and also most of the times pretty expensive. We are really disappointed.
Not even the highly recommended dealer for alternators has diodes or any other spare part for the alternator, only a revised one at the same price than a new one would cost in Europe.
The highly praised shop with the alternators:
Next topic, the boatyards: due to our size only two are possible, but one is booked out until January, the next one for the coming 3 weeks and is super expensive. Also the marinas don’t have any more space for a catamaran, almost.
In the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club we find a space for a few days as we want to travel to Penang to get our visa for Thailand.
Vacation from the boat!! We leave our She San securely attached in the RLYC for three days and nights in a row. This is the first time since March 2018 in NZ that we don’t spend the night on board!!
At 10.30 am we hop on the fast ferry right next to the yacht club and look forward to the ride to Georgetown. But what is this?
The seating rows, the doors, the speed all reminds us of an airplane rather than a ferry and the temperature is even worse. It is more like in a walk in freezer.
In a few minutes I shake, put on all available t-shirts, the extra pants over the shoulder and arms and the extra skirt over the knees. Earplugs in the ears, but it all doesn’t help. Then I go and ask the crew, but no chance, it is either on or off and off is no option I have to understand…
After a while the 3 hours passage is over after all, we get out as fast as possible… But what a welcome? It pours down without mercy. After our first street food lunch we check out the tourist office and find out that there are numerous ways to get around. From normal busses, to the tourist CAT route which is all around the old center there is also the option of Grab taxis (the “local Über”). It pours so much that we decide to spend 1.50 Dollar for a taxi to our hotel, money well spent, as we don’t have an umbrella and only limited amount of clothes to change.
Our room for 20 Dollars/ night is a super positive surprise, everything is clean and well kept and the employees and their boss are super friendly. One lady even comes out from the hotel and brings us an umbrella when she sees that we cannot decide where to go in the rain. Of course, we forget the umbrella at a 7 Eleven just before going back home, but we recuperate it again the next afternoon just in time when the rain starts again..….
We do our first sight seeing and look at some of the street art, but it starts to pour again so we prefer to hide inside.
The Indian restaurant Kapitan
After a few Wontons in a little bar we move on to the Restoran Kapitan in Lebuh Chulia. The food looks good, we decide to pick the standard Tandoori Chicken with Naan bread and order a Mushroom Masala in addition. The service in the upper floor is excellent, the food arrives sizzling hot and tastes absolutely delicious.
The next day we try to repeat this experience again, but it doesn’t turn out well this time. We are too early, have to sit downstairs where it is very noisy and the room is filled with smoke. We wait half an hour to get our food which turns out to be cold and after complaining the chicken is heated again and therefore warm but dried out and not juicy any more… When you plan to go there try to be there before 4 pm or after 7 pm, the first floor service is worth it.
First thing in the morning at 7 am we take a Grab taxi to the Thai Consulate. We are the first in line but Reto has to go back to the Hotel, we read on the door that they request more documents than what is written in the webpage.
We sip a hot coffee out of a plastic bag and wait until the door opening at 9 am. Only 100 visa applications per day are accepted, therefore the hassle of coming so early. But once inside a nervous little man checks the papers and makes us super nervous: „where is your application? not have -- back there…“ -- he shows us back to the door where we find the application forms and until we have filled them out we drop back to being number 7 and 8.
A bit later at the counter „Adress in Thailand? What ? Not have? Living on a boat?“ Luckily one of the officers knows what to do. Then we have to get copies from the Malaysian entry stamp in our passports, of course a few minutes later we have to get back and wait in line again, see another officer who again doesn‘t understand that we live on a boat and have no address in Thailand…
It turns out alright though, we pay and get our receipt to collect the passports the next day at 2 pm, in a matter of minutes.
Kek Lok Si Temple
From the Komtar we take the public bus (big, modern, climatized, super clean) for 2 Ringgit per person to Air Itam where our fellow passengers tell us to get off. Already from far away we can see our target -- the Kek Lok Si Temple is one of the biggest Buddhist temples in Southeast Asia.
At the bottom of the massive compound we find ourselves right in the so-called turtle pond.
There are hundreds of turtles in the pond- in the shade, in the sun, on top of each other… I understand that Buddhist devotees release turtles to improve their karma, interesting, but do all these turtles packed together really feel well?
Up and up we walk through gardens and temples, through the Pagoda with the ten thousand Buddhas until up to the 30 meter high statue of Kuan Yin, the „Goddess of Merci“. It is absolutely amazing, beautiful, colorful and inspiring, even though we don‘t know much about Buddhism.
Afterwards we accidentally stop at the Pasar Air Itam Laksa where we eat our first Laksa. This is a soup with noodles and fresh vegetables with a boiling hot brownish fish broth on top. It is actually quite good and we both like it even though we are not exactly fans of fish soup normally.
Back in the city we continue with the sights but again the rain doesn’t make it easy. The Clan jetties are Chinese settlements built far out into the water. We visit the first two, the New and the XXX Jetty which are still „normal“ and used almost entirely only for housing. Then we flee to a food court across from the Chew Jetty and only visit this touristic one later.
Then finally the rain stops for a while, we search the streets for the examples of street art that Georgetown became famous for.
Most of the sculptures are caricatures made from steel-rod telling about Georgetowns past inhabitants, realized by local artist Tang Mun Kian with the name „Voices of the People“ in a project called „Marking Georgetown“.
Even more popular today seem to be the sculptures and wall paintings that followed by different artists like the „kids on the bicycle“ where always masses of tourists wait to get a picture with themselves or the Bruce Lee, which is hardly visible today.
In Little India we look at the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple, get amazed at all the Hindu statues and colourful clothes in the shops, eat Samosas and Lentil fritters that almost taste like the Falafel we know from the Mediterranean and wander through the market streets in Lebuh Pasar (Market Street).
Goddess of Merci Temple
Just around the corner is the oldest Chinese Temple of the City, the “Goddess of Merci”Tempel, buildt in 1800. Looking for the toilet at the backside of the temple we accidentally meet a friendly lady called Chellie. She seems to appreciate that we are interested and explains us a lot about Buddhism. With her help we understand a lot more about the statues and rituals we see.
Kapitan Keling Mosque
Only a block away and only 3 years later than the temple the Kapitan Keling Mosque was built, a huge and beautiful Mosque, named after the captain of the Indian Muslim community of the time.
Dharmikarama Burma Tempel
On the way to the Embassy on the Second day we first walk to the Burma and Thai temples in Burma Street in a part of the city called Pulau Tikus.
In the Burmese Dharmikarama Temple we enjoy the view, read about the story of Buddha and listen to the Matras of the monks.
Wat Chayamangkalaram (Thai) Tempel
On the other side of the road is the Thai temple with the name of Wat Chayamangkalaram. 4 snakes or rather dragons and two warriors watch over the entrance to the temple. In its center is a 33 meter huge reclining Buddha statue, apparently one of the biggest in the world and plated with gold.
Banana leaf Restaurant on Jalan Burma
One block further south we accidentally run into a Banana Leaf Restaurant on Jalan Burma. Before we understand what is happening we have huge amount of food on a banana leaf in front of us, for 12 Ringgit and apparently as much as we could eat.
Different veggie curries, a tofu and a chicken curry, dhal, naan and and and, the first serving already is enough for the two of us. I think I never have eaten such a great variety and quality of Indian food at the same time and then for 1.5 Dollar per person, this is incredible!!
Of course when we try to repeat this experience the next day in a different restaurant in another part of town the food is just ok and we pay a lot more…
After picking up our passports including the new Thai visas of course also the rain comes back, we stroll again through the city, trough several markets and find after all a few bars that sell beer !!
Back to Langkawi
On the ferry back this time we are prepared, we bought two big towels that help to protect us against the cold of the air-con…
Now the vacation is over, it is about time to work on the boat!!
While Reto puts in a new alternator (that we had ordered from the US and shipped to the marina), changes the oil and pressure washes the deck, I start to clean the last 1.5 years of rust, algae and other stains of the hulls, do a last shopping and ready we are for Thailand.
The check out in Kuh again is highly efficient, it takes less than 30 minutes for all 3 offices, we don’t have to pay a cent, even though it is Sunday and official holiday, we are both highly impressed :-)!
So, and here the absolute highlight last but not least:
watch here our 360 degree video about our 3 days in Georgetown by looking around by yourself!!
And please make a comment in the comment section in YouTube!!!